A recent man-in-the-street interview conducted by a well-known TV personality was a real eye-opener for me. He was asking pedestrians questions on Benghazi, and the IRS scandal. Both of these issues had been all over the news for days or weeks prior to these interviews. He also threw in a question asking them to name the Vice President of the United States.
Fourteen of the Fifteen interviewed had little or no knowledge of either issue, and could not name the VP. One gentleman who was visiting from another country was up to speed on Benghazi, knew nothing about the IRS scandal, but could name the Vice President of our country.
The fifteen who were interviewed represent a sampling of those citizens whom exercise their right to vote in our elections.
Not quite on topic, but check out this video of a man-in-the-street interview on the Sequester. This video is a great example of just how aware some of our citizens really are. I’m sorry I could not find the exact interview I described, but this short video will give you a good idea of what I am talking about.
The dictionary defines these two words as follows:
chal·lenge [chal-inj] Show IPA noun, verb, chal·lenged, chal·leng·ing, adjective
1. a call or summons to engage in any contest, as of skill, strength, etc.
2. something that by its nature or character serves as a call to battle, contest, special effort, etc.: Space exploration offers a challenge to humankind.
3. a call to fight, as a battle, a duel, etc.
4. a demand to explain, justify, etc.: a challenge to the treasurer to itemize expenditures.
5. difficulty in a job or undertaking that is stimulating to one engaged in it.
1. any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty.
2. a question proposed for solution or discussion.
3. Mathematics . a statement requiring a solution, usually by means of a mathematical operation or geometric construction.
4. difficult to train or guide; unruly: a problem child.
5. Literature. dealing with choices of action difficult either for an individual or for society at large: a problem play.
As you can see by definition, these words are fairly close, but have subtle differences in meaning. One would imply that it may require more effort, but it can be accomplished.
The other would imply that we might have reached a point where we will not be able to accomplish anything more.
I once worked for a private contractor who specialized in building fiber optic networks across the entire country. We were making great progress and burying miles of new fiber optic cable every day, and were actually ahead of schedule.
Things were going great until we reached a point on the route where the cable had to cross a deep and wide canyon that had not been shown on any of the blueprints or job drawings. I called the owner of the company and told him we had a “Problem.” The owner arrived at the job site very quickly, took me off to the side, and explained to me; “Son, this Company doesn’t have Problems, we only have Challenges. To say we have a Problem is saying we are out of ideas or not experienced enough to complete the job, and that just isn’t true.”
The owner instructed me to move the equipment around the canyon and get back to work plowing cable, leaving him to deal with the “Challenge.” I learned something from this lesson I will never forget, and I used this lesson repeatedly when I was running my own successful business operation.
Where is all of this going?
By now most of you are wondering where in the world this old man is going with this two-word English lesson, so please let me explain.
The recent man-in-the-street interview I watched on TV made me very aware we have a serious Challenge on our hands for a means to educate our citizens on what is really going on in this country, and around the world. Our public school system no longer spends much time teaching Geography resulting in large numbers of our youth having no concept of where the places in the news are even located.
I would estimate that if asked, approximately 75% of our citizens who voted in the last election couldn’t name their elected representatives even though they awarded them their precious vote. Exit polling following the last Presidential Election was even more startling. The single issues for some that made up their minds on which candidate would get their vote was interesting to say the least. An example of this would be those citizens whom voted for the candidate who promised ‘free birth control’ was amazing. For others it was which candidate cared the most about ‘Women.’ For some it was who was telling the best story regarding a possible ‘Amnesty program.’ And of course the standard ‘D’ or ‘R’ with the candidates name still plays a major role in the decision making process for voters. Party loyalty is alive and well, and no amount of common sense will likely ever change this.
Many voters paid little or no attention to proposals to fix the economy, reduce unemployment or reduce the National Debt, National Security issues, or any other truly important issues. Their minds were made up when they heard about their individual personal hot buttons that had been addressed. “That is my guy because he is going to let me keep my free cell phone.”
Our elected representatives are fully aware of the lack of voter education and voter apathy, and take full advantage of this situation. It is only because of ignorance and apathy that the TV smear campaigns work so well. Did anyone count the number of times they saw Grandma being shoved over the cliff in her wheelchair? I didn’t count them, but I was certainly tired of seeing them.
Almost every Politician will stand back and wait until they can clearly see which way the political wind is blowing. Heaven forbid they would stand for what is morally right and would benefit most of those they swore to represent and protect. For most Politicians, getting reelected is everything, and all they care about. In many situations, a Politicians vote on any bill brought before Congress is for sale to the highest bidder thanks to the lobbyists.
Does anyone ever question why anyone in their right mind would spend a few million dollars of their own money to get elected to public office? Are they dedicated citizens who see an opportunity to do what is right for the citizens of this country? If you are one who believes they really care about the citizens, I have a few bridges and some great real estate to sell you.
We first must realize that members of Congress are exempt from many of the new laws they approve in the halls of Congress. It would be pretty easy to approve a law for you, and for me to follow that will not affect them whichever way the vote goes.
I recently sent a letter asking my representative, John McCain, why he voted in favor of the new law taxing Internet sales. I received a nice response from one of his aides telling me that Senator McCain felt this was good for the country. This law would have required Internet sellers to report sales and collect sales tax for an estimated 960 different tax agencies. As it stands, this law was approved but has not been put into effect at this time.
Have you ever seen or heard of any Politician who left office with less money in his bank account than the day he first sat in the cushy chair? I haven’t, nor will I ever see or hear of this happening!
Are you aware of the laws regarding insider trading on the stock market? If not, you might want to send Martha Stewart a letter and ask her what she knows about insider trading. She spent some time in jail over insider trading issues. Yet our Politicians are exempt from insider trading laws. They are in a perfect position to know the impact rule changes will have on businesses and entire industries before the law takes effect. They can easily capitalize on these laws or regulation changes by buying or selling stock in many companies. Yet they will never go to jail for insider trading.
It is evident that our single biggest Challenge is dealing with voter ignorance and apathy. When the voter doesn’t read or watch the news on TV, how can this education be accomplished? If this were a Problem, this would be the proper time to just give up and say it couldn’t be done. We really need to view this situation as a Challenge if we hope to improve the voter apathy and ignorance situation.
So how do we go about accomplishing this much needed Challenge?
I’m going to use an often-repeated answer from some of the recent Congressional hearings many of us watched with interest.
“I don’t know!” This was the standard reply to many of the questions being asked.
With the exception of Reverend Wrights Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, most churches avoid any political topics for fear of losing their tax-exempt status. And that is a good thing.
Labor Unions are accustomed to telling their members how to vote, not educating them on the issues and proposed solutions and letting the members decide for themselves. And that is a bad thing.
All clubs with a 501c3 or 501c4 tax-exempt status are prohibited from engaging in political support or backing any particular candidates for fear of losing their tax-exempt status.
I receive large numbers of emails from various organizations advising me of the latest insanity or dirt coming out of Washington DC. Every single one of these groups is asking for a donation to support their particular cause. Most start out at a mere $25 donation, and go up from there. Some of the newer groups are only asking for a minimum of $5, but I’m sure they will learn the ropes and get up to speed very quickly when asking us for money.
We certainly can’t look for any help from our government when it comes to voter education. In their minds, the dumber the better when it comes to voting.
If we exclude churches, social clubs, labor unions, newspapers, the TV media, and the government, what are we left with? None of the uneducated voters will be reading political articles on the Internet, so addressing these issues here is sort of futile.
Now keep in mind that I am not proposing telling anyone how to vote, or whom to vote for. They just need to be informed on the issues, the candidates, and the proposed solutions so they may vote intelligently. The only Challenge is figuring out how to deliver this information to the voters without going out knocking on doors at the risk of getting arrested or shot in the process.
My fear is unless we can find a way to educate voters, and let them choose the correct path this country should be headed; we are in for more of the same, only worse. We learned nothing from what took place in Greece and in Spain. We are headed in exactly the same direction and will self-destruct unless some things can be changed.
If anybody anywhere has some ideas that could be used to start a voter education program I would be delighted to hear them. Keep in mind that most of those needing voter education do not read the papers, watch the news, or make any attempt to keep up with current events. Their churches, and social clubs are forbidden from doing this needed education. The government is not going to do any voter education, so that pretty much leaves those of us who are concerned about the direction this country is headed to take care of this Challenge.
As always, your comments are both welcome and appreciated here in sunny Arizona.